Chopping Mall Blu-ray Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Blu-ray released by Lionsgate Films
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Written by Jim Wynorski and Steve Mitchell
1986, 76 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 26th, 2016
Kelli Maroney as Alison
Tony O'Dell as Ferdy
John Terlesky as Mike
Russell Todd as Rick
Karrie Emerson as Linda
Barbara Crampton as Suzie
Nick Segal as Greg
Suzee Slater as Leslie
For those of us who grew up in the heyday of VHS and video stores, I think most of us can agree that we had it better than those who have grown up in the Netflix/streaming video era. Sure, this current generation has the selection of choices we never had, what with everyone with a video camera thinking they can make a movie. But they are sorely missing out on the hunt. It's easy for them to pick a movie, press play, and if they don't like it, move onto the next. We didn't have that luxury. We didn't have the technology to pull up a trailer, even. All we had to go by was a box cover, and once we took that movie home, we were stuck with it, good or bad, until it went back to the video store. So, if we had to rely on our parent's for transportation, we better make a wise choice because we were going to watch that movie, good or bad.
Another advantage the video store youth had was the indie features were (generally) made by someone who probably had a moderate amount of training. You had very, very little, if any, of this "I have a camera, I can make a movie" bullshit. So even if that tape with the amazing cover we grabbed was a horrible movie, it was still leagues better than some of the half-ass productions you see streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime today.
It was during this time that filmmakers like the great Jim Wynorski reigned. He was (and still is) one of the straight-to-video kings; and when you couldn't find his work in the video store, no doubt if you waited long enough you could find it on late-night cable. With over 100 credits to his name on IMDB (and possibly even more because he directed under a few different pseudonyms), one of his most popular films (and my favorite of those that I've seen of his), came early on in his career; the glorious Chopping Mall. (The second film he ever directed, according to IMDB.)
Chopping Mall centers on a group of teenagers (who else?) that decide to have a party (what else?) in a place they really shouldn't be partying; the furniture store a few of them work at. Unfortunately for them, the mall has incorporated a new security system in the form of a trio of robotic guards (Killbots!) that go amuck after lightning strikes their control center. Where originally their job was to protect the goods and people inside the mall, their new goal is to slaughter anyone found within the mall in the most gruesome and brutal of ways (how else?). It's gonna be a long night for these trespassers.
I honestly can't remember the first time I watched Chopping Mall, but I can assure you that it was a weekend VHS rental. This is one of those movies that is very much a product of its time, from the bright neon colors to Chuck Cirino's rocking synth soundtrack, to the very fact it takes place in a mall. There are a ton of memories to be had for those of us that grew up in this era. I'll freely admit my love for this movie has a lot to do with my history with it, but hot damn does it still stand up.
The cast is pretty solid, what you'd expect from an '80s horror film. But the bonus is that in addition to your typical cannon fodder, one of Chopping Mall's main characters, Alison, is played by the delightful Kelli Maroney. Naturally I love her in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Night of the Comet, and I love her here as well. She is a natural as the girl next door and you root for her from the beginning (which is nice because it should come as no surprise that she's our final girl here).
The other notable genre favorite is scream queen Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) as Suzie, in one of her earlier roles. Chopping Mall would be a hell of a good time regardless, but Maroney and Crampton add to what's to love about this movie. Plus, keep an eye out for some really great cameos sprinkled throughout the movie.
The kills in Chopping Mall are a lot of fun. You get electrocutions, stabbings, shootings, and one hell of a head explosion. In both the features and commentaries found on this disc, claims are made that it is the second best head explosion on camera (the best being Scanners, obviously), and it's tough to argue. It's both surprising and effective.
Chopping Mall is one of those films that doesn't try to make any statements; its only goal is to give you a good time, of that it succeeds. It delivers the necessary three Bs of independent horror – blood, boobs, and beast – in spades, and it holds up today just like the first day I saw it. Don't go into it expecting anything else but a lot of fun, and you'll have it.
Video and Audio:
This is one of the first releases from the new Vestron Video Collector's Series from Lionsgate Films, and if this is any indication of what we're going to expect, oh boy, are we horror fans in for a treat. The 1.85:1 presentation is absolutely gorgeous. The colors pop throughout, not letting you forget this is '80s, flesh tones are natural, and Leslie's lip gloss looks exquisite.
The DTS HD-MA 2.0 is surprisingly good. There is a nice mix of screams, explosions and gun fire, and the dialog is never overtaken by any of this.
Look at all of those features! I feel like I need to take a breath from typing all that. Like the video and audio, Lionsgate is already setting the bar extremely high for its new Vestron Video Collector's Series collection.
All three commentaries are worth the listen if you are a fan of the film. You get more of the behind-the-scenes information with the commentaries with those involved with the film, naturally, but the fan commentary with Nathanial Thompson and Ryan Turek is great too because it's as if you are hanging out with your friends discussing a film.
"Back to the Mall" (26:29) kicks off the featurettes with interviews with director/co-writer Wynorski, co-writer Steve Mitchell, and a majority of the cast sharing memories of making the film. Everyone talked to reflects positively on their experiences with the movie, and there are some pretty cool tidbits to be had.
Following is "Chopping Chopping Mall" (8:19), which consists of conversations with editor Leslie Rosenthal, Wynorski and Mitchell where they discuss the editing process, including the infamous head explosion scene.
As the title suggests, “The Killbots” (12:11) focuses on, you got it, the Killbots. The piece tells of how the idea came about (along with sketches) and what it was like working with them. There’s some neat trivia to be found here, including how they managed to get a Killbot to go up an elevator, even though the robot was too wide.
"Scoring Chopping Mall" (11:04) follows, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Composer Chuck Cirino explains the process of making the kickass score for the film. He also shows off the vinyl LP for the movie, and man, you will love the cover.
Although it's a nice idea, "The Robot Speaks!" (2:12) is 10 questions posed to a Killbot (voiced by Wynorski). It would be more enjoyable if the Killbot were represented by something other than a photo, but I give credit for the thought.
In "The Lost Scene" (3:01), Wynorski and Mitchell discuss a scene that was never filmed, then the script scrolls over the screen so you can check it out for yourself. Rather than say what the scene was about, I'll let you discover it for yourself (although I do recommend you view it after watching the film as it will ruin a couple of cameos for you).
"Army of One" (6:01) is an interview with Carl Sampieri, a huge fan of Chopping Mall. He shows some off some of his collection and he tells how he came to own some of what he has.
While they are all pretty terrific, my favorite featurette would be “Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots" (15:41). This too-short piece explains the film’s antagonists from conception to design to execution (no pun intended) from Robot Short, their creator. There is some crossover from “The Killbots”, but that’s a-okay because it’s still pretty fascinating if you are a fan of true behind-the-scenes pieces.
Rounding it out is the film's trailer and an isolated score.
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